Guthrie Corning Hospital Alerts Patients to Possible Saline Flush Syringe Reuse

Corning, N.Y. -- Guthrie Corning Hospital announced today that an investigation found that between Oct. 15, 2012 and Jan. 29, 2013 a registered nurse did not follow proper infection control protocol with single-use saline syringes.  The nurse is no longer with Guthrie Corning Hospital.

As a precautionary measure, Guthrie Corning Hospital has mailed letters to 236 patients hospitalized at Guthrie Corning Hospital who were treated by the nurse identified reusing single-use saline syringes. If a patient did not receive a letter but was hospitalized during that time, he or she is not at risk.

Patients who receive a letter are asked to call a special toll-free number, 1-855-316-7944, to coordinate an appointment for precautionary testing or to speak with someone if they have questions of any kind.  Guthrie will reimburse patients for appointments or testing at a Guthrie facility or at a facility of the patient’s choice.

“Guthrie Corning Hospital conducted a thorough investigation and has coordinated with the New York State Department of Health,” said Brian Fillipo, MD, MMM, Chief Medical Officer at Guthrie Healthcare System.  Fillipo added, “We have confirmed that no other nurses were following this practice and this was an isolated incident. In fact, Guthrie Corning Hospital’s nurses are taught and instructed to use the single-use saline syringe one time and then discard it. We are evaluating our training program to determine if any changes need to be made.”

No needle is used during a saline flush.  Saline syringes are used to flush IV tubing before and after medication is administered through an IV.  Guthrie Corning Hospital, like most hospitals in the United States, uses single-use saline syringes. 

Fillipo emphasized, at this time, there is no documentation of any specific patient where this occurred or an indication of the transmission of any blood borne infections for any patient who received an IV saline flush from this individual during this period.

“We apologize for the concern this has caused our patients,” Fillipo said. He added, “Our primary concern is with our patients and ensuring they receive precautionary testing.”

The risk of potential infections is considered low, nevertheless, there may be a risk that some patients could have been potentially exposed to certain blood borne infections such as hepatitis B virus, (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).


Summary of Actions Taken by Guthrie Corning Hospital:

  • Initiated an internal audit of the use of saline flush syringes
  • Reported a concern about potential inappropriate use of saline flush syringes to the New York State Health Department
  • Sent letter to all hospitalized patients who possibly had exposure to a saline flush reuse during the period Oct. 15, 2012 and Jan. 29, 2013
  • Contacted all primary care physicians listed in the medical record of the affected patients
  • Set up a special number for patients to call to coordinate appointments or to speak with someone if they have questions
  • Reviewed and reinforced all policies and procedures in relation to saline flush protocol


About Guthrie

Guthrie Health is an integrated health system located in north central Pennsylvania and Upstate New York, serving patients from an 11-county service area. Guthrie is comprised of a research institute, home care/hospice, hospitals in Sayre, Pa., Corning, N.Y., and Troy, Pa., as well as a multi-specialty group practice of more than 260 physicians and 130 mid-level providers in a regional office network encompassing sub-specialty and primary care sites in 23 communities throughout Pennsylvania and New York.  Guthrie Health offers a wide range of services and programs designed to enhance the health and well-being of those it serves.